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Ajimobi, Aregbesola Not Sincere About LAUTECH Crisis — ASUU Chair


The Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Dr. Biodun Olaniran, tells FEMI MAKINDE that the union is not against probing LAUTECH’s accounts

LAUTECH was on strike for the better part of 2016 and the same thing is happening this year. What is the reason for this?

The main cause of incessant strikes of the unions in LAUTECH, and especially ASUU, is the chronic under-funding of the university. That is where the problem started from. The funding pattern of the university is not sustainable and that has led to a series of crises on campus. We are owed many months’ salary.

How many months’ salary are you owed?

We are owed 10 months’ salary. No part payment, no half salary. We have not collected a dime for the past 10 months. I want to believe that our members have been surviving through the grace of God.

Chief Wole Olanipekun’s visitation panel recommended, among other things, the audit of the university’s account. Why did your members chase the KPMG officials away?

The Olanipekun panel recommended the audit of the university but that is not the only thing they recommended. For us as a union, we don’t have any problem with the KPMG auditing the account of the institution. We are known for transparency and accountability, so they can audit the university. But what we are saying is, why take that particular recommendation alone? Why can’t they look into other recommendations? Because one of the recommendations of Olanipekun’s panel is to let activities resume on the campus before they can do every other thing? For activities to resume in the university, the panel recommended that they should release N1.7bn immediately. That was how the panel put it and it is on page 89 of the panel’s report. But the governors and their spokespersons are saying some people went ahead to chase away some people. ASUU members were not on campus when officials of the audit firm went to LAUTECH. We have already embarked on an indefinite strike. I am not aware if anybody was chased out, but certainly not by our members.

It was also alleged that the workers’ union of the university went to court to file a suit to stop the owner-states from auditing their accounts. Is ASUU part of the suit?

That is why we are saying governments of Oyo and Osun states, especially the governors, are not sincere in their move to resolve the crisis in LAUTECH. How could they say that the workers’ unions filed a lawsuit against them (the two states)? Why are they saying that the unions went to court to stop the planned audit of the university’s accounts? I believe they have the copies of the papers filed in court; they should have come into the open to say which unions approached the court. We have four unions on campus. We have ASUU, the Non-Academic Staff Unions of Universities, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the National Association of Academic Technologists. They should be specific about the unions because ASUU is not against the audit. We are not part of the unions they are talking about.

However, I think some people believe that they have the right to seek redress in the court. I think people are free to go to court and individual organisations can go to court to have some interpretations from the court of law. I also want to believe that the Olanipekun panel’s report clearly spelt out that the only body that the law allowed to appoint an external auditor to check the books of the university is the governing council. Maybe that is one of the areas which the other unions are looking at. Neither the governors nor their governments can appoint external auditors and that is why Olanipekun recommended that the way they can do it is that if you are the ones that appointed the chairman and members of the governing council, then the governing council can appoint an external auditor. At least, the states appointed those in the governing council and those there are all the appointees of the governors, but they should follow the law.

Do you think the recommendations of the Olanipekun panel can put an end to the crisis in LAUTECH?

The chairman and members of that panel have done a thorough job. To be candid, their recommendations are okay. The panel’s recommendations took cognisance of the reality of the economic situation of the country. It fashioned out ways of implementing (the recommendations) so that there will be peace. The owners of LAUTECH may not be able to do everything at once, but at least, if they pick those recommendations that will restart activities on campus, as time goes on, normalcy will be restored to the university and other recommendations can be implemented to ensure permanent peace.

Were you aware that the university management operates about 97 different accounts?

We were not aware. ASUU members are part of the academic staff. We don’t have anything to do with the finances of the university. What we are saying as a union is if you notice some of these things, at least all the principal officers of the university are still the appointees of the government, so if they feel that in a way they have done something wrong, they have the ability to hire and fire. Why blame the generality of the workers of the university when they know that there are specific persons in charge of the finances of the university? Is ASUU a signatory to any of the accounts? No, it is not our job. Our job is to teach, do research and community services.

What has been the role of LAUTECH Chancellor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in this crisis?

To the best of my knowledge, we have not heard anything from the chancellor, Tinubu. In fact, we made several appeals to him. As a political leader in this region, we believe that he should be able to talk to the two governors, who are members of his political party. But we have not heard anything (from him). However, what we cannot rule out is that we don’t know if he is working underground. We have not heard from him; he has not spoken publicly on the LAUTECH crisis.

Some government officials say that despite the investments of the two states and the Tertiary Education Trust Fund in LAUTECH, lecturers of the university have not come up with any major breakthrough in research. Is that correct?

Such a statement from government officials would be unfair to the system. If they are saying LAUTECH lecturers have not had any major breakthrough in research, at least even of our products, those that we taught and came out of the university are making impacts around the world. That will show you whether there is scholarship at our university or not. We have some of the students that graduated from the university doing well in some of the top companies in the world. They are working there and I know that if they are not good, they won’t be employed. We have some of our old students working with Microsoft.

Don’t you think that the two states should give construction contracts to the institution’s engineering department to generate more funds?

That is what we have been saying all this while. For example, even at our university, there is construction going on. We have buildings; we have the civil engineering department that can carry out construction. But it is this same government that will not allow these contracts to be given to the university. The governments are only interested in giving the jobs to their cronies and party members and that is the problem. When we are talking of construction, we have competent people in civil engineering and other related disciplines. These are the jobs the university can execute and do very well, but government’s insincerity is affecting these things. We can, as consultants, take up the job. But they will not allow us. So we should not be blamed. We have people who can build good roads but political patronage is affecting things here. If they want to construct a 1,000-seater lecture theatre, it will cost about N200m; they will appoint consultants in various fields and we have LAUTECH Consultant Services that can take up that job. So, what stops the government from patronising LAUTECH?

Has the university been approaching the two state governments for such contracts?

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Posted by on August 6, 2017.

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